“Different isn’t always better, but better is always different.”

– Marshall Thurber, entrepreneur

I like this quote because it sums up my thinking about how customers will buy an offering because of its differences and not because it is similar to another offering. This is true even if the offering is a commodity or is nearly the same as the competition. Ultimately, the customer buys because of the product’s differences not because of its similarities.

Think about it. When a buyer is deciding between two seemingly identical products, the buyer instinctively looks for differences in price, quality, or delivery. With some perception of a difference, the buyer chooses one offering over another. The operative word in that sentence is perception.

Thus, customers will inventory the differences between your offering and that of the competition. But, below that lies the real reasons why customers buy. The reasons are more basic.

It is my contention that buyers buy for the following underlying reasons:

• “Needs” are things that you must have to survive and to function; this includes shelter, food, clothing, and medicine. These purchases are easily justified and are basic motivations for a buyer.
• “Wants” are things that are desired, but not necessary such as wanting an iPod. Wants are tougher for the buyer to justify, but people will buy them because of an innate ability to rationalize almost any purchase. If I buy an iPod I will be happier and more popular.
• “Desires” are wishes or dreams, which can be powerful motivators. You can desire to be famous and this can motivate you take to action or not to take action. Desires can motivate people to change or modify their behavior. If you lose weight, you will be more attractive and this can help make you famous.
• “Fear” can motivate the buyer to take action or not to take action. Fear can create barriers to success by holding people back from taking a promotion. Or, fear can also keep people safe by keeping them from taking unnecessary risks.

With these underlying reasons driving them, customers then seek to justify their decisions with their perception of the differences in the offerings available.

The essence of niche marketing is presenting your product as different while fulfilling the buyer’s underlying reason for buying the offering in the first place.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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